Practical and thoughtful Vietnamese cook book for our American kitchens--a must-have, I think!
Recensito negli Stati Uniti 🇺🇸 il 11 febbraio 2019
There is not a single recipe in this book that I would not enjoy making. And this cook book--surprisingly and delightfully--is quite a "page-turner"!
Quite the statements, but they are true. Andrea Nguyen's Viet spirit, her vast experience, her pragmatism, and her reasonable and logical way of doing things come shining through in this, her newest cook book. She is a real star in my opinion.
What's really special about this book: This author has an acute awareness of what's available in our "normal" American grocery stores and the appliances, counter and pantry space in the "normal" American kitchen. How was she able to so successfully transfer this awareness to her recipes? She paid close attention to her mother's cooking back in the mid-1970's when the family arrived in the US as refugees. No familiar Vietnamese foodstuffs to be found in the neighborhood grocery stores back then, so Vietnamese families adapted American ingredients to mimic what they had been used to in their homeland--a good example of practicality and perseverance and strength of spirit.
So, these recipes are unique, distinct and extraordinary: There is not a single ingredient in this Vienamese cook book that can't be found in any all purpose, good-sized neighborhood grocery store. (Well, finding lemongrass might cause you some extra effort, but not much.....and there is always lemongrass paste.)
Not only are these recipes mouthwatering, they are fairly easy to accomplish and master. Give me a recipe that tastes great and is quick and easy to make, and I will gladly embrace it. Make them recipes with the Vietnamese flare for balancing flavors and textures, and that's even better.
Andrea Nguyen, (last name pronounced "Win") is a fine teacher. She writes with a personable style and has so much worthwhile information to share, that there's no way you'll come away from your first read-through of this book without more knowledge and experience under your belt. And with her thorough explanations, I can't see any recipe failing for you.
After a chapter of essential ingredients and strategic shopping advice, (including some brand recommendations), comes a chapter of basic recipes. I am no longer leery of making Vietnamese caramel sauce--easy-peasy. And there are recipes for making your own basic dipping and chili sauces, and pomegranate molasses. (Her way of showing us that we don't need to rely on Asian condiments from the store shelves.)
After a chapter of uncomplicated snack recipes, comes a soup chapter. And if you are familiar with Nguyen's Pho cook book, you would know to expect the soup recipes in this book to be stellar--and they are.--all ten of them! There are helpful tips on the best store shelf stocks, and how to build a sweet note into a broth.
My favorite chapter is Chicken and Seafood: There are a handful of chicken thigh and shrimp recipes that I could live on...... There are plenty of great recipes in the Pork and Beef chapter, too.
The eleven salad and veggie recipes have me wishing for more. And really, with all the substitutions and suggestions, there are more--plenty more! And adding--even just a few--of the rice and noodle recipes to your repertoire will have all those sitting around your table praising you with big grins on their faces.
Nguyen is very generous with her tips--and they are so valuable, useful, spot-on. Some examples: Why muslin is better than cheesecloth; the difference between cane and beet sugar when caramelizing; the richest coconut milk; how to prevent noodles from sticking together after draining. And there are how-to instructions: For working with lettuces and herbs, working with rice paper, how to cut into matchsticks, and how to buy, prep and store lemongrass, and many more.
And there are plenty of tips on substitutions for creating vegetarian and vegan dishes, plus notes, for instance, on which tempeh has the most umami. And there is an entire chapter on eggs, tofu and tempeh.
Nguyen also offers alternative cooking techniques, by incorporating instructions for pressure cooking and working with a multi-cooker, and providing substitutions for utensils that we might not have.
Here is another thought: If you have Charles Phan cookbooks, and love them, but don't use them much, you will love this cook book even more. In fact, what you learn in this book will help get you back in touch with Phan's books.
Four-color pictures are well done, (but there is not a picture for each recipe). Index is sufficient. Type style, size and black ink, plus a well-designed page layout, all contribute to easy reading. After all, this is a Ten Speed Press publication and they are masters of the art of producing great cook books. Definitely take a browse through the "Look Inside" feature on this product page. If my review has not convinced you this is a wonderful book, maybe that feature can sway you one way or the other.
I bought this book as a pre-order. I recognize this author's name and her reputation, so it was no huge leap of faith that made me hit the buy button the day I first saw it advertised. I looked back to see when I purchased Nguyen's Pho cook book, and I was kind of surprised to see it was almost exactly two years ago that I bought it and reviewed it.
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